William McKinley is a type of man that used to be plentiful in America about a century ago, but that has sadly diminished. He is a big man with a powerful physique, a powerful face and a powerful voice. He could wear a colonial costume and not look out of place in it. He has a repose of carriage and a clear, untroubled face seldom found among the restless, nervous politicians of the Nineteenth century. By the very face of him Mr. McKinley is not a pessimist; men who stand six feet in their stockings seldom are. He is a man who believes in something; there is not a shadow of cynicism on his face. The secret of his power is his belief. He believes in his party and its principles with the entire and complete conviction that Thomas Jefferson had. Belief is always the mainspring of action. A cynic could never have framed the McKinley bill, a socialist or a visionary could never have written it. Leaving its usefulness out of the question, it is in itself a gigantic piece of work, an Titanic conception. Only a man with a big body and a clear head could ever have conceived it.
At last Miss Russell's London notices have reached the anxious American public. They are favorable, kindly, appreciative, but not enthusiastic. Miss Russell has pleased the English public, but she has not captivated it. The English people have had too many beautiful women on their stage and in their history to go wild about one lovely blonde who was born in Illinois. There is always a certain childishness in either nations or individuals losing their heads over a beautiful woman. It is a natural thing among Americans, who are still a very young people, or among the French, who are always boys, but the English are mature, and would look absurd prostrating themselves before 250 pounds of loveliness from Illinois. Lillian is so very young—in art, at least—and from such a young country. Her beauty isn't so dazzling in a land where the standards were set by Annie Boleyn and Mary of Scotland . Her little voice, that is all accidentals, would be quite lost in the gray aisles and naves of Westminster. The judgment of London is ripened by centuries of the best art. The English people want something more than amusement; they never did care much for fun and don't know it when they see it. There is something in the muscular anatomy of the Englishman's face that makes it difficult and painful for him to laugh. Miss Russell is too new to set London town on fire, there the very cobblestones are older than her country's oldest grave. It is proper that the city in which the Globe theatre once stood should be critical in stage matters. However, the English people are kindly; they will forgive Miss Russell—and forget her.
Mr. Downing and the fair Eugenie have propelled their portly persons across the Lansing stage again, and left with us sad and very heavy memories. It seems cruel to laugh at their conscientious but very unimpressive portrayal. The simple and vulgar fact is that both Mr. Downing and his wife are impeded by their "too solid flesh." It is a well known fact, authorized in medicine, that a certain degree of obesity begets a torpor of the mind. From Ben Johnson down the work of very fleshy people has been heavy, labored and inartistic. The growth of the body seems to drain from the mind. The spirit is impeded in its flight by an unwieldy body. Beside the spiritual degeneration, Mr. Downing suffers actual physical inconvenience from his surplus flesh. When he is moved he pants, and when he is furious he gasps as though he were in an apoplectic fit. As to Miss Blair, three hundred pounds should never be clad in a Grecian robe. When Miss Blair bounds into her lover's arms the draperies about her hips move unpleasantly. When Miss Blair falls prostrate at Faustina's feet the scenery trembles sympathetically and threatens to fall prostrate also. When Miss Blair raises her arms to heaven the flesh upon them trembles as though it were going to spill. All this is not a legitimate objection, of course, but it is none the less true and laughable.
There is one good thing which the early frosts have done, one boon which they have conferred upon suffering humanity, they have rid us of the baseball youth. A youth who affects baseball acts very much like a youth who affects jolly little actresses. He pastes in his scrap book all the notes on his heroes that he has clipped from sporting papers; he hangs their pictures in his room and sometimes wears them in his watch case. He spends his mornings in the back yard pitching a ball and his afternoons at the ball park. His conversation is limited to technical sporting terms and he talks after the manner of his barber. His universe is bounded by the park fence, and to him pursuing the golden and elusive dreams of youth consists in chasing balls that go over the backstop.
The early chill of the atmosphere has also temporarily relieved us of the assertive presence of the athletic girl. The athletic girl is a standing apology of nature. When a girl can't dance well, sing well, play well, paint well, when she is a dull conversationalist and is not fond of literature, she takes to athletics. She can't be either charming or remarkable in the natural way, so she will be unique in an unnatural way. She takes great credit to herself because she can lift a heavy weight and throw a hammer and run a mile or pitch a ball. Now, if other young ladies had energy and vanity enough to perspire over weights and pulleys they might achieve as much renown as the athletic girl. But to normal women athletics are rather distasteful. All women like tennis and boating for the pleasure there is in them, but the mere cultivation of muscle doesn't appeal to most women. Female athletics are an excuse for women who cannot excel in womanly things. One thing is sure, a woman to whom nature has given a beautiful arm never has a burning desire to disfigure it by ridges of veiny muscle, a pretty hand seldom yearns to climb a rope and a pretty face doesn't need a baseball mask.
During the last few years a most commendable change has taken place in the church choirs of Lincoln. The Episcopal and Congregational churches at least, perhaps others, dignify and sanctify their services with music. But there are still too many churches who profane the sanctuary with music that would not be endured from a musee band. It is probably a terrible thing to say, but it is a fact that the much venerated "Gospel Hymns" have driven more people of good taste from the churches than Robert Ingersoll and all his school. It is strange that in this age, in which music has developed so rapidly, in which so many of the seers and prophets have been musicians and in which the Lord has so revealed himself to man through music, the churches should cling to the old whining psalm of the Puritans. If we believe that the Lord takes any interest in human affairs at all we cannot suppose the music of Mozart and Handel and Bach and Beethoven accidental. The Lord has made his own musicians and his own music, but the churches give him "Let Us Scatter Seeds of Kindness" and "Pull For the Shore, Sailor." He must be a very loving and patient God indeed to endure such music.
It is peculiar, this idea people have of everything colorless and spiritless being sacred. It is strange how we object to giving beautiful things to God. He must be very fond of beauty himself, he never made an unlovely thing any more than He ever made a "moral" thing. In nature God does not teach morals. He never limits or interferes with beauty. His laws are the laws of beauty, and all the natural forces work together to produce it. The nightingale's song is not moral; it is perfectly pagan in its unrestrained passion. The Maditerranean at noonday is not moral, the forests of the Ganges have no sermons in them. God's nature is just a great artistic creation, and the zones and climes are only moods of a Divine Artist. In the northern zone He was stern and relentless; He heaped the cloistered icebergs and piled the black rocks in great promontories above the night-bound sea. In the temperate zones He was dilettante; He made green meadows and sloping vineyards and sunlit hills. But the tropics were made in exalted, exuberant passion, passion that overflowed and wasted itself, made in all the divine madness of art. Forests, where the tiger crouches in the bush, deserts that the sun laps like fire, seas that heave like some purple-clad breast, chains of coral islands, palm-tufted, that glow with umber and gold. God was not moralizing when he made the tropics. The world was made by an Artist, by the divinity and godhead of art, an Artist of such insatiate love of beauty that He takes all forces, all space, all time to fill them with his universes of beauty; an Artists whose dreams are so intense and real that they, too, love and suffer and have dreams of their own. Yet when we come to worship this Painter, this Poet, this Musician, this gigantic Artist of all art that is, this God whose spirit moved upon chaos leaving beauty incarnate in its shadow, we bring the worst of all the world's art and lay it at His feet. Of all the innumerable human absurdities that have been committed in religion's name this is the most absurd. In the general crash and destruction of things, when the Potter tries his vessels by fire and every man and every artist is judged not according to his piety or according to his morality, but according to his works, when the Master Workman selects from this world the things that are worthy to endure in the next, it is not likely that He will take Baxter's "Saint's Rest" or the "Gospel Hymns," or bound volumes of the sermons of great divines—for in the next world we won't need any sermons. Please God, we will be wise enough then to be taught by beauty alone. He will probably take simply the great classics and the things which should be classics, and the paintings that will make even heaven fairer, and the great tone melodies that must make even His angels glad, and the many lives that in themselves are art, and the rest will perish in the void "as chaff which the wind driveth away, or stubble which the fire consumeth."
Mrs. Burton Harrison still drifts helplessly along with her bachelor maid and her biblomaniac parent and her eccentric friend and her deliberate lover and his female relatives. It is a pity that the Century doesn't send a compositor or two up to Washington square to help Mrs. Harrison out. One always feels so solicitous about her characters, they are such shadowy, helpless creatures; the women are all afflicted with vague yearnings and the men with atrophy of the brain. It is not pleasant to think that a magazine which is supposed to represent the best element of American culture is influenced by an author's social position, but every New Yorker knows that Constance Cary Harrison is patronized by the Century simply because she is one of the 400. It publishes her cunning little stories for just the same reason that the London News published that particularly pitiful poem written by the Princess May .
Harper's has done a great thing this last year. By publishing one great work because it was great, without regard to consequences, it has formally announced that it intends to represent the best and broadest thought of the times. It is going to publish work because it is good, not because it is harmless. It is not a kindergarten journal, nor a publication devoted to the moral advancement of the young; it is a magazine that handles good literature, and if good literature means bad morals—well, that is the old question of horticulture which began in Eden apropos of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It hasn't been decided yet.
When Count Bozenta was in New York a few weeks ago he told a little story about his wife that is worth remembering. Madame Modjeska was not always rich, and when she bought her famous California ranch years ago it was because it was cheap, not because it was luxurious. When she first used to go there to spend her summers help was very dear and she could not always afford it. The greater part of the time she did her work herself, washing and all, and even laundered the estimable count's shirts. She used to spread a big oilcloth down in the parlor and bring in her tubs and have the count play to her while she washed. Anyone who heard her say, "Take thy lute, good wench," when she was working among her women in "Henry VIII" at the Lansing two years ago, can imagine her washing to Beethoven and Chopin . One would rather see her washing like that than see her again as Catherine . So many women can be queens on the stage, but there are so few who can be queens off of it, so few who can rise above the menial part of labor. But that is so like Modjeska; it is her nature to dignify and purify. Her husband says that she washed well, too, only pausing at the softer passages of the music. Some women go through life like that, laboring like peasants and still queenly, with calloused hands and artists' souls.
The theatrical outlook for the coming week is an unusually merry one. Two of the most successful comedies on the road will appear at the Lansing. This column is not an advertising department, nor is it given to lavish praise, indeed it rather prefers to object than to approve, but it gladly admits that "Gloriana" and "Charley's Aunt" are well worth seeing, and that the people who don't see them will miss something. Comedies are seldom funny, but "Gloriana" certainly is, and "Charley's Aunt" has that reputation.
If there exists a manager whose leading man is not an unrecognized fils naturel of the Duke of Bonnyclaber, whose leading lady has not just been secretly married to the Russian ambassador, whose soubrette has not been four times divorced, one would like to meet that manager; he would be a comfortable person to talk to.
"Yes," said Manager Charles H. Yale as he settled the pigeon-egg diamond on his shirt front and stroked his massive cheek with his hand, "the art in specialty work is to be quick; we play to get there, every performance is a race against time. Where do most of my people come from? O, from St. Louis, of course. All specialty people come from St. Louis, or Paris—or the other place. Yes, the company is a big one to manage, but I don't find much trouble. The first few months are always a little raw. Getting so many people together always brings on a sentimental fever and the whole company gets down with it. There are a few marriages, more divorces, and then they all pair off and settle down peaceably: That's why I like to keep the same company; the romance soon wears off and everything goes on peaceably. New people are bound to make new complications. When once the contagion breaks out they all have it. I have seen old stagers who had worn off any pretense of romance years ago, under the influence of half a dozen violent cases in the company, suddenly break out into a second mutual flame and go over the same ground they covered five years before. My last new man caused four divorces in the company and for weeks half the women in the company didn't speak to each other. He's the one who plays the donkey. He has broken the hearts of some of the greatest tragediennes in the country, and the last time he played at Windsor castle by special request of the Prince of Wales —" There the interview ended.
How long will the ingratitude of humanity vaunt itself? It is rumored that a certain chubby little gentleman feels much insulted by being mentioned with the Prince of Fuerstenberg . We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and we would gladly apologize to the little man if it didn't seem to us that the apology is due to the prince.